tv Book TV Encore Booknotes CSPAN December 8, 2012 6:00pm-7:00pm EST
>> some booktv encore booknotes. michael oren appeared on booknotes in august of 2002 to discuss his book, "six days of war" 1967 and the making of the modern middle east. the book chronicles the events of the six day arab-israeli war, which resulted in redrawn borders, changes in leadership and a new balance of power. it's a little less than one hour. >> michael oren, author of "six days of war." june 1967 and the making of the odern middle east. c-span: michael b. oren, author of "six days of war: june 1967 a and the making of the modern siy
ways the pivotal event for the creation of the modern middle east, the middle east that is the source of so much tension and controversy and bloodshed. the obvious reason we want to go back is to find out how the west bank, gaza, jerusalem, principally but also the golan heights came into possession of israel. that happened in june 1967. the war was a pivotal event for many profound reasons. for example, the six-day war really spelt a death nell for the movement of arab nationalism which was a secular movement in its most sublime form under gamal abdul nasser of egypt. that war was debunked in 1967. it opened the door to the entry of a new ideology into the middle east. that was an islamic ideology. that has had profound ramifications for everybody, both in the middle east and in the united states as well.
the six-day war also ended the period when the arab-israeli conflict was a state to state conflict, a conflict between israel and jordan, israel and syria and israel and egypt. this became a new conflict that emerged, one between israel and the palestinians. before 1967, you really didn't hear about the palestinians. it's not by accident a year after the war ended in 1968, the p.l.o., under yasser arafat, emerges as this powerful force in the arab world. we have been living with that as well. 1967 war was also inaugurated the strategic relationship between the united states and israel. people forget that israel fought the 1967 war not with american arms but with french weaponry. france was their principal ally. before 1967, one israeli prime minister one time for one hour had visited the white house. it wasn't israel's founder.
june 1964. today ariel sharon or any israeli prime minister comes to washington, it's obvious he will march into the white house. that began that very, very close relationship, that cooperation began in the aftermath of 1967, not before that. >> as you acknowledge, one more book on the six-day war. there have been a lot of them. what do you have new? what kind of things? >> look at my bibliography. i always encounter that question why we need another book on the 1967 war. the principle reason is the phenomenon of the 30-year rule. that is the rule that attained to most western style democracies in the united states in britain and canada and in israel which holds that after 30 years the majority of diplomatic documents previously classified as top secret are declassified and become accessible to researchers. once you have documents, it opens up an entirely new vista
into the decision making process. that's what this book is really about, it's about decision making. in addition, in the last say 12 years, soviet documents, documents of the former soviet union have become available to researchers. the soviets played a pivotal war in the 1967 war. they precipitated the crisis. i was able to go to moscow and access some of these documents. there's been a new opening in two of the three major arab participants in the war. in jordan and in egypt, there's a tremendous wave of publications about the war, phepl oeurs, studies, even the release of certain documents which is rare in the arab world about 1967. the only place this has not occurred is in syria. in syria, officially the war never occurred. there is not one single official book -- and all books in syria are official -- about the 1967 war. how the average syria believes
israel came into possession of the golan heights is a mystery to me. >> you were born where? >> i was born in the tiny town in upstate new york but raised in new jersey. >> when did you first go to israel? >> i first went when i was 15. i went to work on a farm. i worked in alfalfa, i worked in the cows, i became a cowboy. i was a lousy farmer. i went and studied history. >> what kind of a jew was your family, your father, mother? >> my parents grew up in a conservative jewish community. my parents were zionist, proisrael. were supportive of the state of israel. >> are they both from here? >> both from here, yes, yes. my father had been a career army officer for a period in the u.s. army and served in world war ii and korea and later became a hospital administrator. >> so you say conservative, orthodox conservative reform?
>> right in the middle. >> did you fight in the 1967 war? >> i was a kid. >> you were a kid. did you fight any war? >> i fought in a couple of them, yes. i fought in the lebanon war. i was quite involved in the lebanon war. i served in the israeli paratroopers. i was in the israeli special forces. >> what year? >> june 1982. wars in the middle east occurred in june, almost to the day. it's probably a good war- fighting weather. i was among the first forces to -- of israeli forces to enter the city of beirut in june 1982. my actual unit was decimated in an ambush and we ended up being attached to all sorts of other units for the duration of the war. later on, i became one of the few israelis to be a veteran of the gulf war. in a period just before the outbreak of the gulf war, i was assigned as a strategic liaison
between the army and the u.s. fleet. in the book, i went out that israel had repeatedly requested in 1967, precisely such a liaison with the sixth fleet. the u.s. denied the request. in subsequent years, the united states gave to the request and i was the liaison. it was an interesting job. i went out and partied a lot with american pilots on leave in israel. we had a few maneuvers on the ground, nothing too serious. all of a sudden, it became real. all of a sudden, there was a real war in which the united states and israel had to collaborate strategically. you may recall that the united states provided israel with patriot missiles as an answer -- at least a psychological answer because physically they didn't work -- a psychological answer to the scud attacks. i was part of the team that brought in the patriot missiles. >> they were in israel. >> they were in israel.
>> go back to your education, then. where did you go to college? >> i did a b.a./m.a. of middle eastern history at columbia college. an m.a. and b.a.in middle eastern at princeton. >> israeli and american citizen? >> i am. >> why due end up in the 1982 war in lebanon? >> i always wanted to move to israel. i saw my future in israel. i wanted to raise my family in israel. in 1973, at the end of the 1973 war which i would have missed had i been living in israel, i determined i wasn't going to move just then. i was going to do my b.a. first. i did my b.a. which turned out as an m.a. i worked as an advisor to the israeli administration to the u.n. arafat speaking for the general assembly. very tumultuous period. i moved to israel and tried for this unit in the army.
the tryouts are rather rigorous. i did 17 months of basic training. and got out just prior to the lebanon war. but in israel, we have -- you serve for a long period your regular serve and do reserve service to the age of 52. now i have a son in the army who is 19. and in a very elite unit. i am still doing reserve duty. we share uniforms. very bizarre. >> how old are you now? >> i'm 47. >> you can be called up at any time? >> i have been. i served in the latest intifada. in a combat role. >> where? >> in nablus. >> full combat uniform? >> i'm supposed to be semiretired. you stop jumping in the israeli army in the paratroopers at age 37 and cease being a combat soldier at age 42. at 42, 43, i was asked to stay on as an advisor on media relations. why not?
sounds interesting. get good briefings. when the fighting broke out in the west bank, they asked any of the media advisors if they had combat experience. like a total fool, i said oh, of course, i have. we need someone to be attached to the front line brigade commander who doesn't speak french, doesn't speak english. cnn and french television is running around so someone has to interpret for him. i was outfited with a new ceramic flack jacket and a helmet and m-16, the whole works and fought out there in a blackhawk helicopter which had to do a big sort of detour around ramallah because the israeli army was convinced that the palestinians shoulder-fired ground to air missiles. when we landed, we landed in a halo of gunfire. i have not seen anything like it since lebanon. the brigade commander, as i landed, got shot in the head. got a 7.62 bullet in the head that was stopped by his newly-
issued american kefla -- kevlar mel met. the bullet stuck in the helmet. i quickly got myself a kevlar helmet. >> have you been wounded? >> very slightly. >> does it ever feel surreal? one day you're at your desk at home doing your work. where do you live? >> in jerusalem. >> next day in a uniform. >> the worst part is coming home. it takes a few days to make that switch. it's bizarre. you get a phone call. you know, this week i'm celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary. i got married on august 5, 1982. as i came home from my wedding and i was unwrapping my gifts, i got a call from the army saying listen, in three hours we're going to pick you up in a jeep outside your house in jerusalem and take you to beirut. and i said i just got married.
they said well, that's not our problem. three hours. i had to get out of my wedding suit and into a uniform. my new wife is crying. my parents were there from new jersey who had not seen me in uniform ever were in a state of shock. low and behold a jeep comes by and picks me up. making that transition is difficult. coming back from it is more difficult. you come back from combat and everyone is basically going about their business and buying shoes and getting on buses and it's very bizarre. the last two years, however, have been in the category by themselves. israel lives from crisis to crisis. i think we're rather addicted to them. but this -- the last two years have broken the israeli paradigm. there's a war. it breaks out in the golan heights, breaks out in sinai. you get in your uniform, go away come back in two or three weeks,
take a shower and try to forget about it and go back to your routine. over the last two years, however the war has come to us. it is no longer out there. the war is in our backyards. where i live in southern jerusalem, it's been very, very close to the front. i mean, very typical evening with my children around a table, the house will be rocking with gunfire, machine gunfire, tank fire, helicopters coming over my house and fire rockets. and now we have had the suicide bombings. the last major suicide bombing in jerusalem, the bus bombing, blew out windows of my house. >> so you live there full-time but you also are associated with an organization called -- the shalem center. >> it's a young, dynamic research center that was started about seven years ago through the generosity of the bernstein
foundation. it promotes the study of israel, study of middle east, jewish history, zionism. was founded by several young people, graduates of princeton. now there are about 100 people working there. >> did i read that bill crystal, "the weekly standard" is on your board? >> mm-hmm. >> any other americans we would know? >> deon kats. >> bioethics leader associated with president bush's administration. >> ronald lauter. roger herzog. >> go back to the early part of the book, you say you wanted to write an unbiased view of the 1967 war. after hearing your background, is that possible to do that? >> not easy. not easy. today in history, it's very fashionable in post modernist, relativist history to say you
can't write objective history, don't bother trying so write subjective history. i adhere to that quaint 19th century notion that there's a historical truth out there and that we as historians, though we can never really reach that truth completely, we have an obligation to strive toward it. therefore, if we have prejudices and, of course, we all have them if we have bias, we have to regard them not as opinions to be indulged but obstacles to be overcome. if we want to understand this war -- this is a war as i said before so profoundly impacts our lives in israel, in the middle east, even in the united states -- if we're going to understand it, indulging my opinions will not help us very much. on a sort of daily methodological level, in writing every page, every paragraph, sometimes even every sentence, i have to stop and ask myself, ok, am i letting my prejudices,
ideas, opinions impinge on what i'm writing here? how might i write this if i was completely objective? very often i change the text. very often i change the text. the best compliments i have had from this book have come from arab scholars. the reaction from the arab world has been overwhelmingly positive. i have had no negative reactions written about me in the egyptian press. i have been asked to interview on al-jazeera. i have given lectures at universities where arab scholars were present, at oxford and harvard recently. it's been -- given me a tremendous amount of satisfaction, that reaction. >> by the time you got to the 1967 war, how many wars had israel fought in? >> the 1967 war was israel's third war, sometimes referred to as the third arab-israeli war. 1948 was the war of independence. the 1956 war which was israeli's
call the sinai campaign. one of the things about total war, we have different names for our war. the arabs call the 1948 war, the disaster. this was not a disaster for the israelis. the 1967 war is called by the israelis the six-day war as referred to in the united states. the arabs tame great upl pwrapblg at that term. it means the israelis beat you in six days. i actually used it once accidentally in an interview with a former jordanian interview. he almost ened the interview right then he was so insulted. they refer to it as the setback. they have a number of y a numbee tpheufpls for the war. most refer to it as the june war. >> after the 1967 war, we will go back to it, but how many wars since 1967? >> we even count the wars differently. the israelis identify war of
attrition which broke out along the suez canal shortly after the six-day war and continued until august 1970 in a united states'- brokered cease-fire. then there was the 1973 war. and the arabs refer to -- the egyptians particularly refer to the 19 fp war as the war of attrition and the 1973 as one long war. the 1973 war is the yom kippur war. in egypt and the arab world, referred to the as the october war or the ramadan war. june 1982, referred to the as the october war or the ramadan war. june 1982, the lebanon war. which in one way or another continued until may of 2000. and the gulf war which wasn't exactly an arab-israeli war but had an arab-israeli component to it, as i mentioned earlier,. and now the outbreak of two intifadas if you can say those words in the plural. the first from 1987 to 1992.
the last from september 2000 to the present. >> by the way, how many americans are living in israel and have dual citizenship? >> i don't know. probably around 70,000 to 80,000. >> go back to 19 4r8 for a moment. when did the u.n. declare israel to be a country? >> the decision of the u.n. came on november 29, 1947 when the u.n. general assembly voted to create a jewish and an arab state in palestine, to partition palestine into two states. upon this declaration, the palestinians declared war on the jewish half. that effort was frustrated ultimately by jewish defense. when the partition resolution came into being on may 14, 1948, seven arab armies invaded the
new jewish state in an effort to prevent its emergence. that effort was also rebuffed. >> what was the size of the jewish state after the vote on the u.n. and they partitioned it off? >> i'll rephrase the answer a little bit. the jewish state that emerged as the state of israel at end of the war of independence, the beginning of 1949, was 30% larger than the jewish state created by the u.n. in november of 1947. israeli forces succeeded in pushing the arabs back. the israelis had conquered no sovereign arab territory, but that 30% would have been part of the palestinian-arab state had that state, in fact, come into being. as it happened, the area that was supposed to have been earmarked for the palestinian state was taken up by israel, by jordan which annexed the west
bank. and by egypt which occupied the gaza strip. >> so didn't have gaza, didn't have the west bank. what part of jerusalem did they not have? >> they did not have the eastern part of jerusalem. >> the old city. >> the old city was part of east jerusalem. that belonged to jordan. they annexed it illegally. it was recognized only by two states, by britain and pakistan. >> how long did that israeli state stay together until it was -- in 1956, what was that war about? >> it was about on the israeli side, the fear that nasser had become a proxy of the soviet union, had acquired mass amounts of soviet arms. >> he was the head of egypt. >> he was the head of egypt. he had been sending palestinian guerrillas to attack deep within israel. it was only a matter of time before nasser used this massive soviet weaponry in an offensive
war of destruction. israel sought to launch a preemptive strike. it found an opportunity in the suez crisis. we call it nationalize the suez canal. tried to negotiate through american mediation a solution to the suez crisis. when no solution could be found, britain and france elected to retake the canal by force of arms and enlisted israel's help in that effort. israel sought an alliance of convenience between britain and france and herself and launched this war. >> i want to show on this map here where the lines -- the diagonal lines, one at the bottom is sinai. over here is the gulf of suez. for the audience to look around and see where jordan is located. jordan used to control that area
in the middle of israel which is the west bank. then you have syria at the top and lebanon. 1956 war lasted how long? >> well, for the british and french, it lasted about three days. the israelis it continued a little bit longer, about three, four days because israel started it. the invasion of the suez canal occurred on november 3 or 4 and israel launched their attack on the 29th of october. >> who led the country then? >> david was the prime minister. >> where were people like ariel sharon? were they involved? >> ariel sharon was involved in a very controversial action. this gets complicated, right. as part of the deal with britain and france and israel, israel was to create a forward faint at the suez canal by dropping
paratroopers in and around the mitlah pass. it's the pass that leads from sinai, the interior of sinai to the canal zone. britain and france would issue an ultimatum to israel and egypt saying in order to protect the canal, israel and egypt were to remove their forces from the proximity of the canal within 24 hours. it was assumed by the planners of the arcane operation that egypt would reject the operation and britain and france would use that as a pretext for reoccupying the canal in order to protect it. welcome to the middle east. the israeli commander of the paratroopers, the founder of the paratroopers, who parachuted into the pass was none other than ariel sharon. to this day, there is a controversy over whether sharon moved his troops, exceeded his orders by moving them into the pass and engaging a far superior
egyptian force and in the process incurred a great number of casualties, the greatest number of casualties in the entire war were from that operation. to this day, it's a form of controversy. >> how old would he have been? >> he was a young man. early 30's. >> some of the other personalities involved. yitzhak rabin, where was he in 1956, leading to the 1967 war? >> he was a commander in the northern district. wasn't involved in the war. >> where was moshe dayan? >> he was the chief of staff. >> where was myere? >> she was the foreign minister. >> lebeshkov? >> a finance minister. >> who were some of the other leaders? >> we had a dual capacity as the ambassador to the u.n. and united states. >> was his name really abray
salam? >> still is. ao when did he change his name? >> when he moved to israel. >> most people like moshe dayan, these were their original names. the notion was to hebrewcize one's name. >> david bengorian was david green. >> he was from where? >> the ukraine. >> where was yitzhak rabin from? >> native born israeli. >> ariel sharon, where was he from? >> russia originally. he still speaks russian. not great russian but passable russian. >> moshe dayan? >> in holland.
>> shimon peres? >> poland. still has a polish accent. that is often a humor in israel. good thing i remember these things. >> ok. we're leading up to 1967. by the way, did israel win 1956? >> israel won the 1956 militarily. there was a pattern always in israeli diplomatic history. they win them militarily but cannot necessarily win them diplomatically, politically. so was the case in 19 4r8. they won an overwhelming victory over the arabs but yet didn't secure the one thing that most victorious countries achieve in a war. it didn't achieve peace. it didn't end the state of war. 1956, israel decimated the egyptian army, decimated the egyptian air force and yet did not achieve peace, again. 1967, one of the great military
victories in all history, in terms of the amount of material lost bit arabs, the men lost, the territory sacrificed by the arab forces, it was an overwhelming victory. did israel achieve peace in 1967? no. >> so actually as you read your book, you get to day one -- you break it up eventually. day one takes right off from the first paragraph. i mean it was interesting. up to then, it's history. then boom, you're in the middle of a war. you say by 7:30, close to 200 planes were aloft. what, again, june 5, 1967, how big is the israeli military? >> the military about 100,000, 125,000 men, 200 aircraft. >> what type of aircraft? >> mostly french aircraft. >> no american aircraft? >> no. mostly mysteres and mirages.
>> i thought i saw a reference to paten tanks. >> there were a small number. it was the first american- israeli arms deals. israel had a limited number of them. the largest m-48 tank force was the jordanian army which had almost completely built around the m-48. they had about 240 of them. that was the most advanced tank of the time. >> who started the 1967 war? >> i think it's important to keep in mind that this is a war that few people wanted. and nobody anticipated it. >> who was prime minister? ishkol. he had been in an opposition party for the government. bengurian had been a very big
critic of the israeli government. >> was it a coalition government? >> a coalition government but not with him in it. >> who was the chief of staff of the military? >> yitzhak rabin. it was some very let eupblgous personalities in this government. there was the national religious party which today is a pretty outspoken right wing party. then it was an outspoken left wing party. there were the party that was in many ways so far left wing it came around and was right wing. sort of labor hawks. >> who ran jordan? >> king hussein. >> who ran syria? >> there was a doctors government. they had doctors in psychology or philosophy. there was a bathist regime, a radical, marksist regime that
had a front of the civilian government. behind it was a military hunta in which the principle figure was rathar. >> king hussein's son is in control now. >> right. >> did they get involved in the 1967 war, the saudis? >> they sent a force to the border saying they would join but didn't join the war. secretly they were telling the americans we hope the israelis get rid of nasser. >> who ran iraq? >> iraq was run by a baathist regime. the arab world was divided between conservatives and radicals. the conservatives being jordan, the persian gulf states and radicals being egypt, syria and iraq and nigeria. >> where was arafat?
>> he was running an organization called al-fat. out of damascus at the time, conducting terrorist operations against israel with the specific objective -- long term objective of creating instability in the middle east and dragging the whole area into war. i open this book, the discussion of the 1967 war, with al-fat's first terrorist operation against israel on new year's eve 1965. it was an aborted operation. then i show how a series of these attacks led to an escalation of tensions in the middle east and eventually succeeded in plunging the region into war, far beyond the expectations of even the syrians who were promoting these operations. >> now, you mentioned nasser earlier. where was sadat? >> sadat was an underlink of nasser, spokesman of the
national assembly, a person not highly regarded in egypt. though he did have a key role in the outbreak of the six-day war. on may 11, 12, sadat was sent on a state visit to north korea. egypt is a radical state. they have connections with north korea. on the way back from north korea sadat plays a courtesy call to moscow. there he is told by soviet leaders that the soviet union learned of an impending israeli invasion of syria. >> who is running the soviet union? >> this is a day of troicas. there were tremendous divisions between the three. in the brevnesh camp, there was a lessening interest. >> as sadat lands in moscow in
may 1967, what is the readiness of the israeli army at that point and the air force? >> not very ready. >> you would have been at your desk -- >> the reserves have not been called up. there is general tension in the area, particularly with the syrians. they had been firing on border settlements in northern galilee. syrians are attempting to divert the jordan river and really dry up the jewish state by diverting this river. israel responded by bombing the syrian earth work projects. >> who controlled the sea of galilee at that time? >> israel. the syrians were 10 meters off on one part of the eastern shore. it was not uncommon for fishing boats to be shot at or shelled. there was constant tension on the northern border. the estimate of israeli intelligence which has a high reputation was that war in the middle east would not break out for at least another three years. nobody foresaw the war. >> it broke out june 5, after
the may visit of sadat. >> soviets tell him there's this plan bit israelis to invade syria, to capture damascus, the syrian capital. sadat goes back and tells this to nasser. nasser sends his chief of staff, fazi to damascus to see if there's evidence of this. the syrians told sadat between 13 and 15 israeli brigades massing on the border. >> border of? >> israel. on the southern border of syria. fazi goes to damascus and ascertains that the syrians know nothing of this they're not at alert. he takes a small plane up to look at the border, doesn't see any israeli forces massing there. he reports this to nasser. nasser decides for political reasons to ignore the advice of his chief of staff and to act as if the soviet warning is true, that israel indeed intended to
invade syria and he sends his entire army into sinai, sends 100,000 men into sinai. >> the sinai is about how far from jerusalem? if you got in a car and drove. >> about five hours. >> all the way to the end? >> closest point is 2 1/2 hours. >> how long does it take to drive across the sinai? >> four or five hours from tip to tip. >> mr. nasser sends the troops to the border of sinai? >> along the israeli border. >> along the israeli border. sinai is controlled by the egyptians. >> right. but at the end of the 1956 war in return for israel's withdrawal from sinai -- sinai was also taken bit israelis in 1956 -- the u.n. put in a u.n. peace-keeping force in sinai. >> how many men? >> at that time, 15,000. and nasser when he begins to
send forces into sinai informs unef they have to leave. >> how can he do that? >> because the -- egypt's rights visa sraoe unef were ambiguous. hamershal which was the architect of unef described the arrangement as the good faith agreement, that is essentially the unef was situated on sovereign egyptian territory, it was there at the discretion of egypt. once egypt decided to oust unef it had a sovereign right to do that. before it did that, it was understood that egypt would inform the general assembly, there would be a general assembly discussion on whether unef fulfilled its historic mission. nasser ignored that part of the good faith agreement and informed the unef they had to leave. now, secretary general of the
u.n., rather than raising a protest to nasser's move, he immediately abg wesed and ordered unef to remove itself. >> you imply -- was he a burmese? >> mm-hmm. >> secretary-general. was a weak character? >> i don't think he was the strongest character in the world >> hamershel was stronger? >> very dominant character. >> let me jump off track just a second. you have interesting personal stuff. you say -- you talk a lot about nasser and his chief of staff. that at one point in this whole thing that they contemplate suicide or at least amir contemplates suicide. >> he is the defacto head of the egyptian army. nasser is the president of egypt. he is a -- by any other terms,
he is a military dictator. came to power in a military coup and is the unchallenged leader of egypt since the egyptian revolution in the early 1950's. amir begins to acquire power late 1950's and early 19 60's. he becomes the commander of the army. it's the base of power for the military regime. he acquires other titles. he is the head of the egyptian soccer federation. he acquires considerable wealth and influence. amir and nasser have this extraordinarily complex and convoluted relationship. amir poses the greatest threat to nasser's rule, he is nasser's most bitter political rival. on the other hand nasser and amir are best friends. they live next door to one another, go on vacations together, their families marry with one another, they have
nicknames for each other and they love each other. you have this strange mixture of fear and affection. and it greatly confuses egyptian decision making. i will give you one example about the question of unef. we talked about the u.n. forces before. nasser wanted the unef to pull back from the border and remain in the area of the sinai peninsula that overlooks the straits of taron at the entrance to the red sea. those were block kaeuded to israeli shipping. few look on a map, the red sea leads to israel's southern port of ilat. from ilat israel can reach the ports of asia and africa. and once you close -- sealed off the straits, they're about a mile and a half wide, israel was effectively block kaeuded from the sea. that was an act of war under international law. it's a reason for going to war. nasser did not want the u.n. forces to be moved because he
knew once they were removed, he as an egyptian would not be able to sit there and watch israeli boats pass by. he would have to blockade the straits again and that could cause a war. he sent instructions to his officers who were to meet with the heads of unef telling them we want to you move back from the border but stay in sharmelshef and stay in gaza. amir changed the orders. he wanted to regain glory he lost in the 1956 war. he changed the orders. we know this for fact. we have the protocol from the meeting. egyptians who came to the u.n. forces in sinai said we need you to turn out entirely. at the same time, amir sent egyptian paratroopers to occupy the region. once he did that -- >> where did you find this information? >> we found this information in the u.n. archives. u.n. archives operate according
to the 30-year rule. they're in terrible disarray. there are thousands upon thousands of documents on stacks on the floor. on 29th street. >> in new york city? >> in new york city. you sift through these and eventually come up with reports from the field. i received them from egyptian sources, from memoirs of officers involved, from egyptian documents that existed in one particular archive in cairo. and a very interesting source for me was -- i also rely heavily on oral histories. >> which you did. >> i did in most cases. i didn't go to syria. >> only place you didn't go. went to jordan, egypt. due go to saudi arabiaa? >> no. no interviews in saudi arabia. >> iraq? >> no. the three countries which interviews took place in the arab world are syria, jordan and egypt. >> you didn't go to syria?
>> no, i had an assistant go to syria. i could as an american citizen. >> because you are a jew? >> not because i'm a jew. i'm an israeli. >> israelis go to syria? >> on foreign passports. it's risky. why risk it? i have an excellent assistant. >> how many oral histories did you capture? >> there's a long list there. >> 100? >> close to 100. >> over what period of time? >> former soviet union. over three years. former soviet union, united states and france. >> over how many years? >> a flee-year project. >> you finished the book when? >> beginning of this year. i finished the book just around september 11. >> of 2001? >> 2001. >> ok. i want to get some of this personal stuff out. time goes by so fast. you learn in here that yitzhak rabin who was the chief of staff of the army had a nervous breakdown?
>> he did. physical and nervous breakdown. >> did he ever admit this? >> eventually he did. >> when? >> a week into the crisis. a week after egyptian forces enter sinai and a week after the egyptians evicted unef. >> before june 5. >> well before. two weeks before. >> you also learn that moshe dayan had a breakdown in the 1973 war. did he admit that? >> he had it publicly. it was difficult not to. >> what does it look like for both of these gentlemen? >> rabin it happened behind the scenes. he disappeared for 36 hours. dayan was interviewed on tv and was semicomatose in 1973. it was quite apparent he was going through severe emotional distress. it was difficult to disguise it. the rumor was put out that rabin suffered nicotine poisoning and
many years later, he came out and said the pressure on him -- i think this comes out in the book -- just indescribable pressure. they try to find a way not to have a war. it just became insufficient rabble. >> go back to nasser for a minute. how long did he live? >> until september 1970. he negotiated a cease-fire in the jordanian civil war with the palestinians called black september. and then he decided. he suffered from severe diabetes. >> how about amir? >> that's an issue in egypt to this day. >> did he try to commit suicide? >> the official version is he committed suicide in august of 1967, after he tried to launch an apwortive coup against nasser. anti-nasser forces in egypt will say that he was assassinated, amir was executed by nasser.
it remains a point of contention within egyptian society. >> we need to close the loop on sadat's meeting in the soviet union. >> mm-hmm. >> when he went to meet with the soviets, they told him that the troops were on the border. did he come back and tell -- what did he tell tphas stpher >> he told him what the soviets said. the soviets expect egypt to come to syria's aid. >> what was nasser's relationship with the united states? >> very, very tense. as bad as it can be. nasser had had come to blows almost with president johnson. nasser attacked johnson repeatedly orally in his speeches, to the point that johnson suspended shipments of u.s. wheat to egypt and a large portion of the egyptian population was sustained by u.s. wheat shipments. johnson cut it out. >> how much money at that time
was the u.s. giving israel or giving egypt? >> israel, several million. very little aid. mostly loans. >> it's not $3 billion or anything like it is now? >> that started much, much later. >> so there's so much here you can't even begin to get to. i need to get from you, though, the first day of this war. what happened? june 5, what happened? what was the extent of, you know the deaths and destruction? >> what's interesting is -- it later became the six-day war and was conceiveed by the israelis as a two-day war with limited objectives. objectives were to knock nasser down a couple of rungs. first of all, by eliming his air force which was the cream of the egyptian military. limiting the air force and then by taking, conquering the first of three defensive lines that the egyptian army set up in sinai. that's all. no taking the entire sinai
peninsula. no occupying gaza. no reaching the suez canal. no season golan heights. no entering jerusalem, east jerusalem. all of that happened in an unexpected, unanticipated way. to me, that's the fascinating part of the war. how did this war snowball into an event that has had this immense impact on us all? each stage of that war that was unanticipated is a story unto itself. >> so on the day that it started -- >> right.
in the book i referred to it as the israelis will amend or understand is a hail mary pass. and, the attack was coordinated at a time in the morning when the pilots had just finished their morning patrol, the dawn patrol and they were coming in for coffee. the plan was to destroy first of all the runways, not the plains of egyptian planes could not take off and essentially they were bottled. interviewed the former commander of the israeli air force and he said to me the plane in the air is the most devastating combat tool but on the ground it's completely defenseless. and it was true, they develop special bombs that penetrated the runways with a retro rocket and blew up a psalm on delay so
the egyptians would never know when they would blow up so once the runways were destroyed all of the egyptian planes, the soviet spy planes were trapped and were sitting ducks quite lived literally and the israeli planes mostly using canons and rocket fire, not bombs, destroyed these planes and the egyptians had never bothered to put them under canopies. two hou theyrs were all out on on the rn runways completely exposed. so within about two hours, israel had destroyed well over 300 planes, so it was they largest single aviation victory in military history.nes di c-span: how many planes didd? egypt have?ot >> guest: about 400. they ultimately lost all but aut handful.at on c-span: and on this day that it . the israeli ground forces move to take the first line of defense. israel sent a letter to the jordanians. they had an open connection with king hussein. hussein could be as anti-israel
as anybody but secretly he was meeting with israeli emissaries and had open communication with the british and american embassies. the israelis sent a warning to king hussein saying this is between egyptians and us, stay out of it. you stay out of it, nothing will happen. but hussein had a terrible dilemma. he was afraid if he stayed out of it, the arab world would accuse him of treason and kill him. he had invited the egyptians to command his army. he put his army under egyptian command. the egyptian commanders received word in cairo that the israeli air force had been destroyed and the egyptian ground forces were proceeding toward hebron and jordanian force were to enter the war immediately. they opened fire and shelled jerusalem and shelled the outskirts of tel aviv. when israelis feared that the jordanian army would move into west jerusalem as it had in 19 4r8, that's when they struck
back. they began to strike back on the west bank and jerusalem. that's how that stage of the war began. >> how bad did they hit them? >> the jordanians fought value incidently. eventually israeli forces overwhelmed the jordanians and took the west bank. in a bloody battle, they took east jerusalem. >> what kind of planes were the jordanians use stphg >> hawker hunters, british. mostly never got off the ground. >> syrians? >> migs. russian planes. >> israelis? >> french. >> egyptians were flying russian planes. >> mm-hmm. >> there was one point where he said the russians were proisrael and totally flipped. what year did they do that? >> 1953 they flipped. >> what was the reason? >> the reason was that the initial motivation for soviet support for israel was no longer relevant. the soviets had supported the creation of israel as a way of
dividing the british empire in half. the british in the 1940's had forces along the suez canal. it was the largest british base in the world. they were in jordan, the persian gulf. british officer in 1945 would get in his jeep and drive from egypt through iraq and still be within a british sphere of influence. the easiest way to put a wedge through the two halfs of the british empire was to create a jewish state in the middle. if you look on the map, particularly the desert dividing egypt from jordan and mess oppose tamea and iraq. by 1953, israel was an accomplished fact. the soviets had more to gain from the arabs. the u.s. was dependent on arab oil. many arab regimes were then -- there was tremendous political upheaval in the middle east. there were coups every week.
many were like the baathist in syria and iraq were pro-soviet. it became natural for the soviets to support these regimes. >> we only have a couple of minutes left. i want to get to the end of all this. in the end, what, a half million arabs that had troops involved in all this? how many died? >> about between 15,000 and 20,000 egyptians died. several thousand jordanians. thousand some couple hundred syrians. the syrians were the least scathed in the conflict. they were the principal factor for precipitating the war. they stayed out of it until moshe dayan decided to take the golan heights as well. >> how many planes lost? >> 20% of the israeli air force lost. in spite of this tremendous victory, israel paid a very heavy price. many planes lost.
>> when this war was over in six days, why do you say, again, this is such an important war and it still resonates today? >> well, as i said earlier, because the map had changed, all right. first of all, you had a relationship between israel and the united states that didn't exist before. that was to play a central role in middle east politics. since then and continues to this day to play that role. nasser was finished. moreover, not just nasser the individual but the idea of nasser, that there was going to be a nationalist arab movement that would reunite the arab world. that was debunked. now there would have to be a new idea. that idiom would be islamic and not nationalist. the arab regimes were sick and tired of the arab-israel conflict. let's give it back to the palestinians. let the palestinians fight their own fight from now. that's when you have arafat emerging. then you had the physical reality.
it was different. israel had more than tripled its size in six days. extraordinary. and israel had the means now to bargain for peace. november 1967, a few months after the end of the war, the u.n. passes resolution 242 which implies a deal of territory for peace which remains the basis for all middle east mediation to this very day. that was the document. this is the founding document. and israel was later to get a peace treaty with egypt by giving back the sinai. if israel is to have a peace treaty with syria, it is because israel conquered the golan heights in 1967. even if there is to be a peace between israel and the palestinians, it will be a basis of a territorial deal that arose as direct result of the 1967 war. >> you are still in the reserves and you have a son how old?
>> 19. >> active duty? >> very active duty. >> where? >> i don't know. he serves in a very elite unit and i don't know where he is. >> how many people in israel under arms right now? >> we have -- the actual numbers of our standing army is a state secret. it's large. several hundred thousand. altogether with the reserves. israel can field an army of several hundred thousand people. >> are there israeli-arabs in the army? >> there are. they are under no obligation to serve. there's only one non-jewish population in israel, the drews who volunteered to be drafted, beginning in 1956. there are great numbers of bedowins, muslims and christians who serve and sircasians. >> "six days of war" the title of the book. our guest is michael